It is the UK Anime Network's regret to announce the death of Takao Saito, a major figure in the manga publishing industry, from pancreatic cancer. He was 84 years old.
Takao Saito was born in 1936 and entered the manga industry in 1955 with the mystery title Baron Air. In his early career Saito was considered one of the founders of the "Gekiga" movement which disdained cartoony flights-of-fancy and instead used manga to tell more realistic, grounded stories of human drama. Saito is best known for his manga Golgo 13, featuring the hits of a taciturn globe-trotting assassin, which Takao Saito created as an original take on the series of James Bond 007 manga adaptations that he had drawn from 1964-7. Golgo 13 debuted in 1968 and still runs today, making it both the oldest manga in continuous publication and the manga with the most published volumes, as Vol. 202 of Golgo 13 stories was released earlier this month in September 2021. Despite Golgo 13 being an enormous publishing titan the industrious Takao Saito still contributed to numerous other manga, particular highlights including 1970's seminal tokusatsu series Barom-1, ninja adventure The Larceny Log of Zanpei the Cloud-Snatcher from 1983-88, and a manga adaptation of the Onihei Hankacho series of Japanese historical novels from 1993 onwards. Into his eighties Takao Saito still remained active in the industry and continued to oversee his art studio Saito Productions which he founded in 1960. He received numerous awards for his work including the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize in 2019 and the Japan Cartoonists' Association Award in 2002, and he was twice bestowed with national decorations for his contribution to Japanese culture: Japan's Medal of Honour with Purple Ribbon in 2003, and the Order of the Rising Sun in 2010. In 2019, Saito's artwork was exhibited in the British Museum.
In a 2015 interview with the Financial Times, Takao Saito remarked about his most famous creation Golgo 13: “People over the years have asked me whether Golgo has become me, or whether I feel like he’s my child. He’s not. The Golgo character and I have the kind of very good relationship that exists between an actor and a director when the actor does everything the director says. I draw and I work. I think of him as a greengrocer thinks about vegetables. He’s not a person.”. Suiting such a sense of professional detachment, publisher Shogakukan has confirmed that Golgo 13 will not be cancelled but will continue being written and drawn by other members of Saito Productions.
Our condolences to Takao Saito's friends and family at this time as we all mourn the passing of a hugely influential figure that helped to shape the entire concept of manga into what it is today.